Rising British star Lando Norris further boosted his ever increasing credentials with solid performances in F1 & F2 cars at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza in Italy this weekend (31 Aug-2 Sep).
As in Belgium the previous weekend, Lando combined his Carlin F2 programme – finishing sixth and fifth – with 90mins behind the wheel of the McLaren MCL33. Unfortunately Lando was restricted to just nine-laps by the McLaren team wanting to save its limited tyre allocation for later in the GP weekend, all 20 cars only using wet or intermediates tyres due to heavy rain earlier on Friday morning. Nevertheless Lando, at the wheel of Stoffel Vandoorne’s regular car, commendably spent much of the session just 0.3secs slower than the other McLaren of Fernando Alonso in the difficult conditions when both were on "inters" midway through the session.
Norris lined-up sixth for yesterday’s 30-lap Feature race around the ultra-fast 3.6-mile track near Milan in which almost 80% of the lap is taken at full throttle with F2 speeds approaching 200mph acknowledging its “Temple of Speed” moniker. A tardy start dropped Lando to seventh, completed lap two in fifth, and lay eighth at one-third distance after an unusually slow compulsory pit-stop on lap seven. But shortly after mid-distance, Norris was charging having set a series of fastest race laps and at the back of a three-car dice for fifth. He scrapped furiously and traded places with George Russell and found himself edged wide and onto the grass when side-by-side with the series leader at one stage contesting fourth which he held until lap 23. But with his tyres having lost optimum grip in the closing stages, Norris dropped to sixth on the penultimate lap having set the third fastest lap time of the cars that finished ahead of him.
The BRDC SuperStar, who had previously won races at Monza in Formulae Renault (2016) and 3 (2017), started today’s 21-lap Sprint race third but was swamped at the start and dropped to eighth. Lando was up to fifth by half distance and challenged for fourth in the closing stages but was unable to find a way through. Monza marked the last race weekend of 2018 in Europe for Lando, who remains second in the standings 22-points adrift of the leader, but prior to the penultimate event of the F2 season, staged at Sochi in Russia (28-30 Sep), Norris will drive a McLaren MCL33 in a two-day Pirelli F1 tyre test at Paul Ricard on Tuesday and Wednesday next week (5-6 Sep).
Lando Norris (GB): Born: Bristol, England. Aged 18.
“Bad starts in both F2 races this weekend have cost me possible wins as the car’s race performance was pretty good.
The F1 session was short but clean. McLaren needed to conserve tyre usage but I was happy with my pace, initially on wets then inters, in the few laps I did. I was set to improve my lap time but was baulked by traffic on two of my ‘push’ laps. I still learned a lot comparing data with Fernando for example. I also didn’t find the difference between the F1 and F2 cars so big like I did at Spa the previous weekend.
F2 practice was messy with the track half wet and half dry at the beginning so I waited until the last 10mins or so before going out on slicks. But each time I was on a good lap I got traffic, both times at the last corner, which was annoying. I lacked pace in qually, didn’t get the most out of my tyres on my second run and made a mistake at Ascari.
My start wasn’t great in the Feature race, not finding the bite point which resulted in a slow getaway losing me places. For the first four laps, my pace on the ‘options’ was good but then I suffered big rear tyre degradation and struggled. Unfortunately our pit-stop was a little slow so I had to push hard to get ahead of the guys I’d slipped behind again. I went around the outside of George at Turn 3 and pulled alongside but ended up off the track. I got grass and gravel on my [left] tyres which took 2-3 laps to clean off. I eventually got ahead of him but he then got me back as my tyres went off.
My Sprint race start was poor with too much drive and wheelspin – the total opposite to my bad one the previous day – and also picked up some damage to my front wing. The car’s pace though was pretty good and tried my best to recover positions which took a lot out of my tyres again.”